Let It Be

mirror

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea

Sometimes I turn, theres someone there, other times its only me…

                                                        –Bob Dylan “Every Grain of Sand”

Parents, send your children to bed (or the media room).  Men, if your wives are of a delicate nature, take them away from your laptop.

I am going to expose myself, my soul, fears and hopes in this, my 200th blog post on WordPress.  Yet again, I will fall into the bitter pit of memories—some bad and some good.  That has become my blog “theme”, I guess; trading in on old dusty thoughts, lovers long gone and the cracks in my heart.  Here I am again, standing in the rain at the corner of Bittersweet and Nostalgia.  It always rains here.  There’s no atmosphere without some discomfort.  It could be rain, snow or tears.  Doesn’t really matter, though.  I turn my collar against the wind and go back to the Hi-Ho Motel to wait for the next train for El Paso.  Then I remember.  There’s probably no more trains to anywhere anymore except some open-pit coal mine providing good clean green energy for us all.  No more whistles that broke the heart of Hank Williams or Box Car Willie.  Now, it’s the next Short Line coach to Toledo.

Last year, on the RV trip to Orting, Washington, I did hear the occasional train whistle.  But the long line of flat-cars never stopped.  They only slowed down to obey the speed limit as the tracks crossed empty streets and country roads.

Yes, there’s no authentic atmosphere without some discomfort.  No one lives in a world of warmth and protection (except, hopefully, children) without living through periods of self-doubt and a tablespoon of dread.  I once had a great deal of faith that got me through the night terrors, but after heart-breaking losses, deaths and illnesses, I often feel like I live in a city populated by millions…alone.

I fall in love quickly and easily and that is a serious fault.  That has led to too many broken hearts in my chest cavity.  When a very close friend died in my arms (he had lived all of twenty-three years), I realized that there really isn’t a lot of time for us, on the earth, to wait for the most perfect choices.  So, I made decisions based on the old trusty phrase: Carpe diem.

But, as usual, I digress.

It’s change that obsesses me now.  Yes, our house could burn down tonight…that’s a big change.  But, it’s the slow insidious change that happens to you during life that frightens me.  I was born on May 31, 1947.  That is 67 years and 6 months ago.  I never was a victim of amnesia.  I was never abducted by aliens (that I recall).  But, I look at a childhood photograph of myself and then quickly stare into a mirror.  I have changed.  But I haven’t gone anywhere to undergo this change.  I can’t say it happened when I wasn’t looking, because I always looked.  I look different and I think different (I used to be a Conservative, for God’s sake).  And, all this happened without a break in the flow of my life!  All the changes I see happened during a day to night to day flow that was never broken.  The lines on my face came slowly, never overnight.

There are years I lived and yet somehow missed.  Students I loved, taught and counseled…I can see their 6th grade faces but do not remember their names.  Women I have slept with are memories now…not out of disrespect…just the passage of time.  I was numb with shock when I heard that one of my long-ago lovers is now dead.  I know that this is trivial and self-serving to many of you, my friends, who have lost a spouse or future partner.  I can only speak to my own experiences.

Somehow, it would make more sense to me if all these changes happened one night.  I’d wake up and be middle-aged.  But, it didn’t.  It happened as I was looking—but I never noticed a thing until one day…

“Hey, that’s life.”  This is what is going through the minds of many of you who are reading this.

I taught with someone many years ago.  Her husband died part way into the school year.  She was the Head of the Middle School and it fell on her to give the graduation speech that would send the 8th grade girls onto the high school.  One sentence will remain with me forever.  She said: “Change is inevitable.  Growth is optional.”

I stood there with the other faculty members.  I cried.  I knew what she had been through even though I had not lost anyone in my life…yet.

What she said was absolutely true.  I knew that then, but I was into my early 40’s and had no idea what was in store for me in a few short years.

I guess I catch on slowly—just like when your hair starts to turn gray.

It’s never overnight.

ME AND MY BROTHERS—AGING SLOWLY

birch tree 1

[Circa 1954]

birch tree 2

[Circa 1970’s]

birch tree 3

[Circa late 1970’s]

Birch tree 4

[Circa early 1990’s]

The Day I Saw My Heart

I am well aware that many people have watched their own brain surgery on a monitor.  I know people have watched their own heart being operated on…but I am not one of those people.  I understand the whole medical thing about blood vessels and nerve endings.  I totally get the concept that there are certain areas that can undergo the scalpel and not feel pain.

But, I have never had the opportunity to ‘see’ the interior of my own body.  That’s kind of strange in itself…since my body is mine.  Why should someone else have all the fun of seeing my spleen or my pancreas…or better yet…a significant part of my lower bowels?  Somewhere, in my files is a DVD of my lower intestines.  If I can find it, maybe I’ll post it as a ‘procto-blog” some day.  But I never saw it ‘live’ in real time.  It was like a bootleg of a famous concert.  Only this was a bootleg of my colon!

Well, all things changed a week or so ago.  I was having an unusual series of irregular heartbeats.  Lots of PVC’s (google it) and it was causing my wife (an RN) to become anxious and suggested to me that I go to the ER.  I stood firm.  No, I said, I’ve had PVC’s before.  But the next morning, my pulse was ‘all over the place’.  I walked out of the front door and sat beside my wife as she drove me to the Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake.  During the 10 miles ride, I didn’t need my hand on my chest to feel the extra pounding.  The last time my heart beat like this was when I saw an episode of “Game of Thrones”, or when I was young as I sat in the Tioga Theater in Owego, NY and watched “Beach Party”.  No plot.  No great acting.  Just Annette!  (Every male of my generation knows what I’m talking about here).

I was set up to have a stress echo-cardiogram.  I had to have lots of little sticky things places all over my chest.  The technician got me ready.  I made my way to the tread mill.  They wanted to get my heart rate up to 135.  By the time it reached 86, I was panting and hurting.  I felt like the only runner in a race that was held last week.  I hurried back to the table and the technician ran the hand held device all over my chest.  There’s your mitral valve.  There’s your tricuspid valve.

I was looking at my own heart.  I was watching it pulsate.  She turned the sound on.  It sounded like my mothers Maytag.  But, I was watching my very own heart…beating and moving blood through my body…to keep me alive!

I found it awesome to say the least.  I had her move the monitor a bit so I could get a better look.  I was looking for something.

I was looking for defects…not the defects that would cause my PVC’s, but defects that had affected my heart for the last five decades.  I looked close.  Was my heart really broken like I thought it was on more than one occasion?  Were there cracks in the frail, thin skin?  Were there cracks in my heart from things I’ve seen that made me cry?  Was my heart overweight or heavy from so many sad things I felt I had to carry?  Were there signs of a heart that was filled with happiness on countless dates in the past?

I could see none of these things.

Later, the doctor looked over the graphs and images and said he was happy.  I made his heart happy…

Just as I turned to the technician to ask if she could print out an image…she hit the OFF button.  Sorry, she said.  I just turned it off.

So, I had to find an image on the internet for you to see.  It’s not me, but it looked something like me.

Not on the outside, but on the inside.

EKGHeart

[Important Note: For any of my readers who are cardiologists, or who have recently purchased a copy of “Cardiology For Dummies” from Amazon, this is NOT my heart’s image.  This is important to note because in this image is a very serious heart defect.  I do not have such a defect.  My only problem is my main circulatory organ breaks easily…so, with me and with all those you love…HANDLE WITH CARE]